Enterprise Software

Casual clothes in the workplace: A sign of working harder?

It seems the dot.commers left one lasting legacy -- casual dress. Even after the bubble burst, the acceptance of ultra casual dress has endured.

It seems the dot.commers left one lasting legacy -- casual dress. Even after the bubble burst, the acceptance of ultra casual dress has endured.

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Who knew that IT workers would one day be setting fashion trends? A Wired article talks about how the workplace fashion stuffiness of the past is giving way to casual dress:

"These days, there are fewer distinctions between industries and power levels. Pretty much everyone looks more like they belong in tech support than in a partners' meeting. That's because somewhere between His Girl Friday and casual Friday, between black-tie and BlackBerrys, our workforce morphed from Mad Men into marathon men -- and the race is not to the sartorial top, but to the bottom of the laundry pile."

And they offer a name for this fashion phenomenon: tech chic. The article lists several reasons behind the emergence of this trend.

First, tech money brought twentysomethings in hoodies to the head of the conference table in the dot.com era, and it looks like the preference is here to stay.

Second, the article claims there is a new feeling that if you look good, you're not working hard enough:

"In a world where profits are down, bankruptcies are rampant, and the most entrenched I-bankers are getting the heave-ho, you can't afford to look as though you spared an extra second thinking about the cut of your Charvet shirt."

In my heart of hearts, I hope that this new take on office dress has less to do with perceptions than it has to do with the fact that ability comes from the inside, not the outside.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

98 comments
wrlang
wrlang

I started out in 1980 IT wearing three piece suits to my job getting printer ink all over my dress shirts. I see more time and effort being put into casual and business casual clothing decisions than business clothes. The only kind of clothes I buy are comfortable clothes. Why would any intelligent person buy anything other than comfortable dress clothes? Heck, I've come home after a midnight conversion and slept in my dress clothes they're so comfortable. I own one pair of jeans and a couple of polos. Cheap jeans just aren't cut comfortably and the ones that are cut comfortably are just as expensive as dress pants. Comfortable to me is sweats and t-shirts. Until business gets to that point, I'll continue to buy comfortable dress clothes. And business casual to me will be business minus the tie. If you don't have time to dress for business, perhaps you're having trouble multitasking or wasting your time on searching for music for your IPod and playing GTA. I doubt very much that anyone saves any time wearing casual to work, or works any harder.

roy.evison
roy.evison

Dear Sir/Madam, I might add 'show me a sign'. It does not matter if you are in IT, a suit is just a uniform- it takes the thinking out of the situation.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

I still prefer to wear dress pants/ slacks and a button down shirt. I will occasionally wear a polo, (and jeans on Friday). But I am just as happy to wear a shirt and tie. I actually like to 'dress up' on occasion though as it makes people wonder what you are up to. :p

crawk
crawk

While clothes don't actually make the [wo]man, they certainly have a strong influence. So do communication skills. Some that can have a profound influence on people's perceptions of us are no longer taught in school. Ergo, may I humbly attempt to influence an increase in skill level by at least the few people here who may not already know the following: 1. That/who 'That' is for things (the book that); 'who' is for people (the clown WHO). [Personalized entities (company, committee) and animals (pet dog, dinosaur) can be either, depending on a number of factors.] 2. Was/were The subjunctive tense ('were' for 'was,' among others) means something that might be but isn't: "If the flood weren't raging up to the computer room (but it is), I'd feel a lot less stress." "I wish he were less dorkish (but he isn't)." 'Was' is just past tense, so "I wish he was" is like still hoping for something that already didn't happen. 3. Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. Not talking about programming languages here! Just ordinary "written communication," with a few exceptions for very complex structures that should be re-worded instead. Yes, despite what we see in newspapers reviewed by poorly educated editors. (And, no, this isn't the first time I've heard the appellation "grammar nazi.")

jdclyde
jdclyde

The idea of people wearing shorts in an office setting shows the lowering of standards, not an increase in how hard people are or are not working. The suit/tie is often overkill in most places, but still would have it's place. I see casual dress more and more, with more people wearing dockers and a polo. People act like wearing jeans is some big reward. Dockers are more comfortable, so except for days like today where I will be out on the floor of an industrial shop where I will be wearing jeans and a tshirt, it is the dockers/polo for me. I am waiting for "no pants Fridays"....

gypkap
gypkap

In most of the IT places I've worked, ties have been forbidden as safety hazards. Only suits ever wore ties, and many of them (usually the technically competent ones) didn't wear ties either.

thestoat
thestoat

I think for the most part what is considdered Business Casual is fine for most office situations. That means for men button down shirts or polos if hot, slacks and shoes. For women they can ware the same as men and are allowed skirts and dresses they go at least to the knee and nothing sleaveless. Jeans in good condition would be fine for men or women. No t-shirts, sneakers, or boot(this is for office jobs). Ties and jackets have little value for a dress code that applies to people that do not meet the customer. If you meet with the customer regularly the dress code should match the customers expectations. Managers may also be required to have a higher dress code. What a company has as a dress code should reflect the additude they want the employees to have. Either a too strict or non-existant dress code may imply that the company has a poor focus on the work to be done.

Bizzo
Bizzo

We've been through various dress code policies, some work, some don't, some even get laughed at. At the moment, it's business casual. The list of what is and what isn't acceptable is clearly defined, yet a number of people in the building tend to ignore it. I've seen jeans, sandals, t-shirts, the lot! There's an "unofficial" dress down on a Friday. Which means that some managers accept dressing down, some don't. Our manager doesn't. The building I'm in has over 400 staff, some wear business attire, and others look like they're off to the pub. I used to be suited and booted at work, but my role no longer needs me to meet customers, so now it's just shoes, trousers, shirt (no tie, no jacket)

crawk
crawk

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no impact on society." However much merit should be the measure, appearance counts. It just is what it is. Notice how defensive and even hostile people are when they know they could present a better picture? Just suck it in, dress appropriately, and watch the defensiveness disappear. I work in IT for a fashion retailer, where we dress however we like. But, out of respect for our own selves, most of us have cleaned up over the last few years and can make a presentable appearance to customers and other business units. No ties in-house, not even in the board room, but respectable attire all around. Since what we wear affects our own bearing and behavior, and strongly affects other people's behavior toward us, this change helped spur a revolution in corporate culture from slovenly and defensive to mutually respectful and collaborative. If I ever finally go off-grid and out on my own, you can bet I won't forget the lessons. A couple sites on the subject: http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Clothes%20Articles/ClothesDOMakeTheMan.htm http://blog.marketplace.nwsource.com/careercenter/do_clothes_make_the_woman.html

reisen55
reisen55

I have seen IBMers wearing levi jeans on Friday, and corporate dress is long history. I never wear suits, used to, after an incident in PepsiCo, Somers NY where a drill hole on the underside of a desk ripped right through my pants. Bye bye suit. Casual shirt and dockers, good shoes are fine and fair.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

If you wear what's comfortable, isn't that better than being forced to wear a shirt and tie to crawl around in ceilings or to wear a sweat shirt and ratty jeans to an important client meeting? Everyone typically dresses for their job...There is rarely need a need for IT to wear suits and ties and casual dress is just fine (and far cheaper to replace when you get nasty crap all over your shirt)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

casual/work clothing has been the standard. Except when I was teaching, if I dressed up, the first question I was asked as I walked through the door was "Not working today?" :)

jck
jck

hmm...i'd rather see the secretaries at some companies lower other things :^0

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

One of our local DJs has "pants-free Wednesdays"

stevek
stevek

Forget clothes, we should go naked!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It may be ad odd question but an honest one as I don't interact with fashion offices. The popular media perception is a snobbish apearance based industry though the media is never a good place to base an opinion from. Is it really dress how you like or do the ugly betties get looked down on regardless of chracter?

stepmonster
stepmonster

The problem of not following a dress code policy nor enforcing one is that there are always those few folks that have to show up in gardening clothes, Croc shoes, flip flops, bra straps showing, t-shirts with logos and words all over them, and other such garbage, with every tattoo and peircing they have on display. I have always stuck with the rule of thumb to dress like the boss or the boss' boss - and never wear anything your grandma wouldn't approve of. I am the workplace prude though, so I'm not fair about it at all. I silently judge with a smile on 'the outside' but a cringe on the inside.

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

How many of us on here need to crawl around in ceilings that often?

jdclyde
jdclyde

As I have a strong policy about never getting involved with someone I work with, I am glad they are all old and dress conservatively. Why add any temptation? :D I know, you were just "swilling"... ;\

neilb
neilb

Dried out after Fay, yet? :D

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

(I couldn't resist but I'm going to hell already anyhow.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Good to hear my limited experience with fashion offices is pretty much accurate as I've yet to see any operating like a TV show either.

crawk
crawk

My corporation is the retailer rather than the upstream devil-wears-prada design house. Don't have any experience or knowledge about those places and am happy not to. Bottom line - it's just another big business. It took a long time to drag the olde timey merchant mentality into the modern era, and the tech side was even less respected than in other businesses (if that's possible). But the industry was finally taken over by the MBAs just like everything else. Here, the improvement in general IT dress standards was unspoken and cultural rather than forced by decree. Now, since we're not the suspendered, sandaled, bearded circus clowns at the meeting anymore, we're taken seriously.

Bizzo
Bizzo

My partner used to work as a fashion designer, and although a few of the people "dressed to impress" with the latest designer gear, most of them did not. I think that because they worked in that kind of industry, only the people that were "trying too hard" dressed like that, the others didn't think it was necessary.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

At a previous employer, women were sent home for dressing too provocatively. This was done at the request of men who were made very uncomfortable and feared that sexual harassment suits might be brought against them for staring.

reisen55
reisen55

I had a previous career in sales for an international packaging/consulting firm that is long gone. It was there that I became involved in computers and on past jobs, I have occasionally worn (with grey dockers - slacks) a blue jacket when I wanted to remind myself of a professional attitude and place a knod to that previous career. Clothes, then, also impact the mental attitude and professionalism of the WEARER and that can work wonders.

neilb
neilb

Sorry, just thinking out loud. :p

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

However, just the other day I was acting as the official mover/unpacker guy of all that is technology

jck
jck

I avoid the "spicier" sites from work ;) As for what the new boss thinks, I'm going to propose it to him. If he has questions, I'll answer them. I don't hide anything from anyone I work for, including telling them why I am leaving the current job for them. I do it diplomatically, but I always point out the professional reasons why I am leaving. The new boss is a cool guy. Said "I don't care what time you come in or leave so long as there's not a meeting. I just want 8 good hours of work out of you a day." That is my kind of boss. I can't sleep and go in at 5:30am, I am not expected to stay until 5pm no matter what(like where I am now). Man, the stories I could tell you about this place. You'd cringe even more, jd.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Not only did I [b]NOT[/b] officially quit, but I continued to call in sick every day for another three weeks to make more paperwork for them.... :D Yeah, they pissed me off and screwed me over several times over the 8 years I was with them. X-( Two babies at home though, I wasn't in much of a position to do anything about it. In your case, I would be more concerned with how the new boss would look at you if you pull something on your way out. Gets it in the back of their heads, ya know? As for schedules, always give some pad time, as the average tech is HORRIBLE at approximating time. When you beat it, you have time to surf porn.... ]:)

jck
jck

I am expecting a call. The director there said that he got 4 resumes, and I was the only one with any relevant programming experience he wanted. Said he'd call me in a couple weeks, if he got no other qualified candidates. The place I'm at now...well...i feel treated like a hated stepchild. I make schedules for projects when asked. If I don't meet them, I'm looked down upon. When I meet them, no reaction. When I beat them, the reaction is to tell me to "tighten up your schedule making" (like I am the project manager?), and then to have 4 days taken out of my timeline. Then of course, there was the issue with vacation. Promised 2 weeks off when I started, since I already had a vacation scheduled at my old job. Then, management lolly-gagged with the chosen development platform. Delayed development by 7 weeks. I got 1 day off instead of 10 (which I demanded to attend a family function). Of course, I was going to fly to Oklahoma and Texas. Ends up 3 weeks later, one of my best friends in Oklahoma I was going to see died. Hence, I am not happy with where I'm at. They've lied to me, treated me like a criminal, and disrespected me as a professional. So, I'm just waiting on the call...and pondering whether or not to give 2 weeks notice or to just walk out the door and never talk to them again.

jdclyde
jdclyde

the muzzle part, that is..... You don't need luck for the other part, just nail it! :D

jdclyde
jdclyde

the muzzle part, that is..... You don't need luck for the other part, just nail it! :D

jdclyde
jdclyde

the muzzle part, that is..... You don't need luck for the other part, just nail it! :D

jck
jck

but, i said "some companies"... our company has no secretary. owner is too cheap. besides, i won't be here long. i am about to get offered a senior programmer job somewhere else. before long, i'll be working with some really good looking ladies. have to get a muzzle to keep the tongue in my mouth :^0

maecuff
maecuff

I'm impatient and want it all done NOW. We're functional. The kitchen/dining area is pretty much complete. I love it. It's bold and over the top. I have a mirror in the dining area that my son says belongs in ceasar's palace. And he's right. It's amazing. Speaking of New Orleans, the kitchen was at least inspired by the French Quarter. I'm too easily distracted to stick with a theme all the way through. I still have a kajillion boxes in the garage. And I have a stack of pictures and prints that I want to have framed, but it seems that I'm running out of money and they'll have to wait. :( I hate waiting. All in all, it's going very well. My two boys are enamoured with the koi pond, so that's one thing I don't have to worry about taking care of. Which is good. A big snake took up residence there and I won't go near it anymore. Not until my kids can PROVE (a carcass would be nice) that it's gone.

neilb
neilb

How goes it with the house? Done with the decorating, yet? :D

maecuff
maecuff

I hope you do get to visit New Orleans one day. It's an awesome city. I had such a good time the two times I've been there. The food is just incredible.

jck
jck

i went to New Orleans in 1995. Enjoyed it. Hope to go back some day. My parents live over where all the rain was. Lucky their house sits 3 feet off the road level so they were in no danger. I like looking at the storms too, on the satellite images. But when they get close, they're not as pretty. lol

neilb
neilb

For now. Looks like Hannah is going up the Atlantic coast and, anyway, is back down from Hurricane to Tropical Storm. Ike is spinning up fast but has latest track heading for SE Cuba first and now you have Josephine following on Ike's tail. I saw the rainfall for Cocoa Beach at 25 inches courtesy of Fay. That is a LOT and that's why I asked if you'd been underneath anything significant. More checking and I see that it's just because Fay went over, turned around and went back across again. I quite enjoy watching Hurricanes from a couple of thousand miles away. I'm afraid that most of the people that I know were watching Gustav for the sole purpose of seeing New Orleans washed away. Not me! I want to go there one day. :D

jck
jck

I never really got horrible rains. The other side of the state did. Plus, their rivers run through wetland estuaries (swamps?) and the water drains slower. So, you see lots of new lakes over by Cocoa Beach and what not. Where I live, it rained but it all soaked into the soil or run off into drainage. Now, I just have to worry about Hanna and Ike. Ike has me worried.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

And he has a beard! :D You decide :p

anthony.marshall
anthony.marshall

So the style of this secretary's shoes - to the posters here at least - is sufficient basis on which to judge her. In that case, my suits are sufficient basis to afford me more respect, and others' jeans mean that I should afford them less. This is just inverted snobbery. It's OK to claim a meritocracy, but not when it comes to someone who doesn't fit into your own little clique.

crawk
crawk

I'd been thinking the same thing. I'm willing to bet she's taken exactly as seriously as her attire tells people to.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. she could have fish swiming about in them. Sounds like the textbook definition of hooker-heals though.

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

A secretary at work wears 4 inch clear plastic high heels. Doesn't seem to be work friendly.

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

A secretary at work wears 4 inch clear plastic high heels. Doesn't seem to be work friendly.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I hear our "clubbing cloths" are the equivalent of what they would put on to go grocery shopping. It broke a friends mind to walk into a store for a loaf of bread and see all the women dressed in there best.